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I hear the phrases "stay light on your bike" and "heavy feet, light hands" a lot, but frequently some explanations of how and when to use these techniques seemingly contradict each other.

I watched a video about riding wet tech. The phrase "stay light on your bike" was used several times. Does that mean light in the hands and upper body? Or light on the feet? Light hands on wet tech seems dangerous to me. Without enough weight on the front you risk washout.

I'm assuming there is a balance, but it seems "stay light on your bike" could mean "light hands (or upper body) and heavy feet" in some scenarios and "light feet, heavy hands (or upper body)" in other scenarios.


I know its a "feel" thing, but I'd love some clarity on those terms.


Would some of you more experienced riders speak into this and possibly offer some examples where these phrases are applicable?


Thanks
 

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I hear the phrases "stay light on your bike" and "heavy feet, light hands" a lot, but frequently some explanations of how and when to use these techniques seemingly contradict each other.

I watched a video about riding wet tech. The phrase "stay light on your bike" was used several times. Does that mean light in the hands and upper body? Or light on the feet? Light hands on wet tech seems dangerous to me. Without enough weight on the front you risk washout.

I'm assuming there is a balance, but it seems "stay light on your bike" could mean "light hands (or upper body) and heavy feet" in some scenarios and "light feet, heavy hands (or upper body)" in other scenarios.


I know its a "feel" thing, but I'd love some clarity on those terms.


Would some of you more experienced riders speak into this and possibly offer some examples where these phrases are applicable?


Thanks
it's not contradictory, though.

"stay light on the bike" refers, like JB said, to staying loose. Don't stiffen up or lock your joints out, or the bike will buck you over the terrain. Flex your joints. Think about keeping your head smooth while you allow the bike to move around beneath your body. pump tracks are good places to practice this, but it's probably even more important over chunky terrain where the bike movements tend to be more jarring/sudden and it takes more work to smooth things out.

"heavy feet, light hands" is a reference to where the bulk of your weight should be - centered. Yes, sometimes you need more or less weight over the front of the bike. But still, the bulk of your weight should be centered. The degree to which you weight the front of the bike (and the timing of it) depends on too many variables to get into too much detail. Depends on the bike and the way it's set up, depends on the trail and how that trail is being ridden, depends on the rider and that rider's body proportions. Everybody has to figure out the details for themselves.
 

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This is probably obvious, but stand on your pedals, don't sit on the seat. You don't have to be completely upright, even a few inches off the seat is good, with knees and arms bent. Concentrate your weight on the pedals and as others have said, center your weight over the BB. Leave your arms loose so that the bike can move freely under you.
 

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Absorbing stuff with your knees is being light on the bike. Standing, your weight is divided between your hands and feet, so keeping weight on the pedals simply putting less on the handlebar.
 

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When things get knarly, use your arms and legs as suspension to keep the bike 'light' on the terrain...I've heard it called 'biometric suspension' which is a good way to describe it. Basically, you are out of the seat and staying loose using arms and legs to help absorb bumps and rough terrain. Also focus on front/rear positioning to find a balance point depending on terrain. For example, when cornering you may want to shift weight forward a bit to ensure front tire is loaded up to grip terrain in turn, when coming up on obstacles like rock walls or logs you want to shift weight back to keep front wheel light making it easier to clear obstacles.
 

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One thing to point out, you should be "standing" when you are going downhill, or over rockgardens or heavy root sections, or turning at speed. If you are on beginner trails, there's probably extended flat sections where it's fine to sit and pedal, unless you just want to practice pedaling standing or shifting your weight around.

Also, when you stand out of the saddle, most people leave their butt pretty much directly above the saddle, if left to their own devices. This has the effect of putting a lot of your weight on your hands, and the handlebars, and the front wheel. This is a recipe for going over the bars.

What you want to do, at least when you are pointed downhill, is move your butt behind your saddle, way back, like saddle in front of your jewels, butt kissing the tire behind (the steeper the descent, the further back your butt). This shifts your weight to the rear, puts it on your feet and pedals and rear axle, and takes it off your hands, handlebars, and front wheel. That is kind of the epitome of "feet heavy, hands light." This is also why people like dropper posts: it gets the saddle out of the way.

Now, moving your butt behind the saddle is not the be-all, end-all of weight shifts. There are other weight shifts you should be doing (left of the saddle turning right and vice versa) that are part of being "light on the bike." Skilled riders are all about weight shifts, big and small.

Some people intuit this, or are able to pick it up just from watching others. Some can read it from a post like this, some will need to be coached. It doesn't get said explicitly often enough, in my opinion.
 

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For me "riding light" constitutes unweighting the tires when crossing wet slippery stuff so you barely touch them. Where possible.

Also for me (6'3" 210lbs) riding a XC bike at speed with light-ish tires and not plowing into rocks and roots. Riding light is necessary almost all the time.

If riding a full suspension: don't keep your ass on the saddle and let the bike do all the work.
 

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Reduce your fat and beer intake will help you stay "light on your bike." I prefer the solid feeling of my bike on rails and that requires extra slices of pizza and another round of beer. To each their own.
 

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You want to float down the trail...

Crashes usually follow heavy hits/compressions.

Just watch fails on YouTube.

Big heavy landing, bike gets all sideways & then it's Yard Sale time

Sent from my Nokia X6
 

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Your arms and legs are your MAIN suspension. When you watch skilled riders in rough terrain, you'll see that their head stays steady while they use their entire body when necessary to absorb much of the unevenness in the trail. . Even heavy riders can 'ride light'.
 

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Ya you got lots of great tips.
In any and all sports look at the worlds great.
They make it seems effortless.
They can go on for hours because they know their ****.
After 10 years of practice, 10,000 hours it is in their blood, every cell.
The mind is focussed but the muscles are relaxed.
Well not all the muscles all the time but the ones not needed that milisecond are resting, ready to work as needed.
Now how to achieve a more relaxed state?
You might sing in your head, whistle in your head or simply smile. Relaxing our face sends the message to the rest.
First practice on easy trails than in intermediate if that is in your confort zone.
Get away from tough trails for 3 weeks and just ride over the same trails with a relaxed frame of mind. No tech, no timing, just like an old surfer going with the flow of the ocean.
 

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bombing a rough steep line with legs locked vs using them to absorb things will produce a bit of a different feeling transmitted into the body. But safe riding requires the body to maintain a smooth line/path so it can react and adjust to whats coming next.

Pedaling light... means using your core to put power through the pedals without shifting your center of gravity. When done correctly you will have very little suspension movement. So the opposite effect when descending will mean that the trail affects your core and cg very little!
 

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Riding light means riding with a light grip. It's like letting the bike's leash go looser letting the bike move more freely, and trying to guide the bike with gentle precise inputs. Fear can have you tensed up, deathgripping the bike, and trying to control it with force. You become connected in a way that the terrain bucks both you and the bike. Also, when you are tensed up, you are resisting your own inputs.

Light hands, heavy feet can be misinterpreted. It means the same thing as riding light. The goal is ride smoother over the terrain, and to do that ideally you need to use your body as suspension.

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Universal Athletic Position - use your hip hinge muscles for suspension. You likely need to get the saddle out of the way to unlock your leg suspension travel.
 

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The roadies say be like a duck.
We see a duck moving on water but the work is hidden under water.
So the upper body is separated, relaxed, resting.
The bike is doing its dance according to trail.
 

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I'd say the prior responses have covered all bases.
Go practice at low speed, then progress to higher speeds.

There are many segments of trail that are really rough at slow speeds, and actually get smoother at a higher speed. Sometimes riding light is literally just jumping over the rough stuff.

-F
 

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So far so good.


Heres something I'd add.

The FIRST theory of light on the bike means as was said earlier - you are central on the bike. Standing up, legs supporting your weight, mostly.

If you hit a log/root/rock or other unexpected trail aberration, especially at an angle, and you are NOT centered and light, the front wheel hits it and deflects off. This will put you on the ground fast.
If you ARE centered, but riding heavy, you may well get thrown forward and have a bad day, if the hit is solid enough.
By riding light, the front wheel will sometimes dance around more, but it's not a great deviation from where you want to be going

So, what is riding light?
I have always characterised it as - when standing, legs NOT LOCKED, I feel like i can take my hands off the bars, and I will not fall forward or rearward on the bike. My hands are there to guide the front wheel over and around the terrain, not to put my weight on. Its not always exactly that way, and it course that is not always possible, but that's the general feel.

When that front wheel hits something, rather than track along it and cause a problem, it pops up over and rolls the object.
 
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I think this is well covered. As others have said riding light is to be relaxed many newbie's will be riding "Dead sailor" completed stiff and this will cause crashes.

To add to this i would say also flow with the terrain. Let your arms and legs absorb and obstacle as you hit it. Pretend your body is the shock absorber and suck up and bumps, on the other side of the bump flow your arms and legs back down.

Try to imagine your head staying at the same height and your body moving with the bike and terrain.
 
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